Kentucky Kingdom Reopening In 2013? About That

Two days ago, news broke that the owners of Holiday World were evaluating the possibility of re-opening Kentucky Kingdom.

A Kentucky Newspaper was all over it:

Members of the ownership group of Holiday World and Splashin’ Safari in Santa Claus, Ind., have formed a new company to attempt to negotiate a lease agreement to operate the closed Kentucky Kingdom amusement park at the Kentucky Exposition Center in Louisville.

Members of the Koch family said Tuesday that they “continue to explore” efforts to reopen Kentucky Kingdom in 2013. They said four family members have formed Bluegrass Boardwalk Inc. “to negotiate a lease agreement with the Kentucky State Fair Board, secure financing and apply for economic development incentives from the commonwealth of Kentucky.”

The incentives would probably be in the form of forgiveness of a share of the sales taxes the park would otherwise pay. The Kochs said “no public monies will be requested from the Kentucky legislature.”

Interesting, isn’t it? The one operations group in the country that has a serious interest in seeing that Kentucky Kingdom doesn’t reopen is now in the running to snatch it up. And no one is questioning that?

Never mind that it’s likely not feasible to reopen by 2013. At the time, when Ed Hart was working on it and had lined up $29 million in private capital, there was talk that it wouldn’t open until the 2014 season.

Going off memory here but Kentucky Kingdom’s attendance was, what, 500,000+? And to be profitable it would need to bring in 300,000 additional guests? Where would those guests come from? Yep – Holiday World. Because there’s a fairly fixed population here in the region.

So while everyone is applauding the Koch Family for vowing not to accept taxpayer dollars – just tax credits – to reopen the joint, keep in mind that they have zero reason to be in a hurry. The studies they’ll have to produce (because they’re starting over from scratch) will take six months. It’ll take another six months to create an operations plan and to get it approved. What, six or eight months to get the park back into tip top shape. And then what? You’re well into 2014. If not 2015. They won’t be fighting that sort of delay. Harold Workman and Jerry Abramson know what this game is and they’re playing along to keep up appearances.

The Koch Family is great. No one can dispute that. The business they run is top-notch. But this could be the best $6 or $7 million they’ve ever lost. They keep the park closed longer or keep it from growing in the best case scenario.

While the State Fair Board was busy screwing Ed Hart over, the state was losing tax revenue from Kentucky Kingdom. Now taxpayers owe Hart millions of dollars. And the state is still losing money on Kentucky Kingdom. This is why Louisville and Kentucky can’t have nice things.

8 thoughts on “Kentucky Kingdom Reopening In 2013? About That

  1. The population is finite, but geography isn’t. Two things come to mind. The state fair draws folks to KFEC in August who otherwise wouldn’t set foot in IN like FFA-types or folks who vacation is a trip to Louisville for the state fair. Second would be folks who might be willing to travel from the south or east to Louisville for KK but not the extra hour or two to Santa Claus. As an aside, KK might an option to show the convention crowd too.

  2. Geography is also finite. No additional land is being created. (Technically, the population isn’t finite but it sure isn’t growing quickly)

    The state fair draws the same people every year from both Kentucky and Indiana. Those same folks know about Kentucky Kingdom. If the Kentuckians at the fair don’t want to go to Holiday World, they’re not going to go just because Kentucky Kingdom is operated by that crew.

    Not really sure what you’re suggesting. The State Fair has no bearing on anything in the post. The same number of people were already attending and that number needs to be increased.

  3. You’re right my post wasn’t clear. What I think is that the additional patrons won’t come directly from Holiday World’s attendance, it will come from folks who coming from the southern & eastern parts of the state who might be willing to drive to Louisville for a theme park but not to Santa Claus, or from the east, not willing to pay King’s Island’s fees. As to the how of drawing patrons to Kentucky Kingdom, my talents lie in IT work, not marketing. Considering how well Holiday World is run, if the Koch family does it’s homework and doesn’t think the state will treat them right or the profit isn’t there they will back away and stay with 1 theme park.

  4. Thanks for clearing that up.

    Kentucky Kingdom fees will be quite spend, to say the least. And it will still be drawing from the same geographic region it’s always drawn from.

    The point of this post is that it benefits the Koch Family to keep Kentucky Kingdom from opening and/or from growing larger – as it would if someone like Ed Hart opened it – to prevent drain from their current clientele.

  5. I f Koch drug its feet in Louisville, they would risk a lot of ill-will among Metropolitan residents who are wanting KK to happen. That ill-will would NOT serve their interest at Holiday World.

    And I feel for conventioneers who EXPECT a decent amusement park in our city. That has to be a marketing embarrassment.

  6. Jake,

    Holiday World as a water park draws from a regional pool through out southern Indiana and some western parts of Kentucky.
    Where as a theme park in Louisville would draw some from that same market area, but their primary business would be Louisville itself, areas east/south of Louisville, and the large conference attendance crowd we host annually.
    While there is some overlap its negligible.

  7. You’ve given the only real reason I can see for the Koch family going after the Kingdom. The last time I went to Kentucky Kingdom it was a disturbing mess nowhere near in line with the family friendly standards of Holiday World. The only real outcomes I could see from this is a) the Kochs make a great park and wind up eating into their existing Holiday World business, or b) the Kochs wind up with the same issues as Kentucky Kingdom and wind up destroying the good name of Holiday World and/or hurting it financially. Given the financial difficulties in the amusement park industry, I just don’t see why they’d do it.

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